Best hiking in Hong Kong
Hiking in Hong Kong is possibly the city's most popular hidden activity.
Tourism campaigns for Hong Kong rarely champion its hiking trails and yet 300 kilometers of designated trails, varying in length and difficulty, traverse the territory and many locals hike religiously.
The city’s fervent enthusiasm for hiking comes to the fore at the many hiking events held here, including the Oxfam Trailwalker, Moontrekker and the King of the Hills that attract thousands of competitors every year.
Oxfam Trailwalker -- which takes place in November -- has one of the largest sign-ups ever this year, with 1,200 teams of four already registered.
But hiking in Hong Kong is hardly about breaking records. Most fans just enjoy regular trips to country parks (which make up 40 percent of the territory) and the steady climbs up and down hills each weekend. Here, Hong Kong hiking enthusiasts rave about what gets them moving.
There are plenty of resources available online for hiking in Hong Kong, such as the official Hong Kong Tourism Board website for outdoor adventures, including tips for the Geopark, the Wetlands and various hiking trails. The gov.hk website is a portal for links to country parks, trails and campgrounds. Check the Hong Kong Observatory website and app for weather updates. Download the AFCD hiking app for iPhone and Android.
Teddy Law: I never get bored
“I love the countless hiking trails with varied stunning landscapes in Hong Kong. I can never finish them all and will never get bored of them,” says Teddy Law, a devoted local hiker who runs Oasistrek, a hiking resources website.
Law's hiking addiction began eight years ago and he has been hiking almost weekly since.
Hong Kong's hiking scene is rarely printed on postcards -- a pity. Take Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung for example. Law says he has made it his all-time favorite for the "unbelievable coastal colors and unbeatable panoramic views."
"What I hate is the never-ending infrastructure and property development that extensively deteriorates the natural environment, one of the most valuable assets of Hong Kong."
Also on CNNGo: 5 hiking trails for virgins.
Teddy's most unforgettable experience was getting lost while taking a coastal walk near Hung Shek Mun.
"I was a beginner and we were walking along the coast. The tide rose at dusk. We couldn't get any signals on our mobile phones for an emergency call and we were forced to wade in the water with our food. Finally, we had to cross a river at night with waist-high water levels to get back to the main trail. I learnt a lesson and am now well-prepared for new routes."
Learn from Law and be prepared before hiking by studying the maps, planning the route well and making sure there is adequate equipment. It's a must even for an experienced hiker.
Teddy Law recommends: Hiking to Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung, possibly Hong Kong's best beach. It is part of the MacLehose Trail stage 2.
Vince Natteri: Watch out for freaky weather
Vince Natteri, an avid hiker who runs hikeinhongkong.com, says there’s no other place like Hong Kong where you can truly escape from the urban areas so easily.
“I love beautiful scenery and the smell of fresh air. Both can be found literally 40 minutes from the center of Hong Kong,” he says.
Nature and the city are just a stone’s throw apart. Half a kilometer into a trail on Lamma Island, for example, one can spot a distinctive power plant while standing in narrow dirt roads surrounded by nothing but trees.
As fun as hiking can be, however, it also comes with risks, no matter how experienced you are.
Natteri says he has participated in races like the King of the Hills and HK100 Ultra Trail Race and will be competing in Trailwalker for the fifth time this year, but was once stranded by a massive rainstorm while hiking.
"The weather changed so suddenly, it started raining like hell and I couldn't see a thing," says Natteri. "To tell you the truth, I was scared."
"I started counting to keep the brain occupied, putting my hands over my eyes to cover them from the lashes of rain and I had to cover my ears too."
But unpredictable weather and tough trails are precisely what many hikers seek.
Marco Foehn: Makes me work better
Marco Foehn, director of Walk Hong Kong, a local travel agency that offers historical walks and hikes, says: “Hong Kong’s public transit makes hiking absolutely wonderful. You could be hiking on an outlying island in the morning and having lunch in Central by noon.
“It's tough dealing with foreign travel agencies (to set up hikes for tourists). They don't get how easy it is to reach a hiking trail here.”
The first thing most tourists notice in Hong Kong is the overwhelmingly fast pace of life. Also, malls are packed, roads are lined with Mercedes and crowds huddle in streets.
It only gets worse for those who work here. The city’s competitive working environment may spur efficiency, but work-life balance is often jeopardized by long working hours and high stress levels.
According to a work-life balance survey done by the University of Hong Kong, 83 percent of interviewees said they suffered stress while 75 percent from lack of exercise due to high workload.
Foehn, now 57, says, “I used to be in banking here. The higher up I got at work, the more stressful it became. I needed to relax and then I found hiking.”
He said hiking in Hong Kong gives his mind a complete rejuvenation -- something money can never buy.
It also enhanced productivity. “Very often I returned from a hike with new ways of solving work problems."
Marco Foehn recommends: The Dragon's Back trail in Shek O Country Park.
Joanne Ooi: Shame about the pollution
Joanne Ooi, environmentalist and head of the Clean Air Network, says while Hong Kong’s air can get too polluted for hiking during certain months, she is a big advocate of hiking.
"I love to feel that I'm about to die [after hiking], that's the type of person I am," says Ooi when pointing out her favorite trail as The Twins for its downright toughness.
"I used to hike religiously in Hong Kong years ago, that's partially because of my first husband." The couple used to hike three to four hours every weekend.
However, she doesn't feel the same now due to the severe roadside air pollution, which is the prime trigger of heart attacks in Hong Kong, above drug use and alcohol.
"Don't hike in July and August, because the air quality is unsuitable for that four to five days a week."
Do you have a favorite hike? Share with everyone in the comments box below.